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Album Review: ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’ by Slipknot
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Ides Bergen   |  @   |  
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Slipknot .5: The Gray Chapter Album Cover Art

Slipknot
.5: The Gray Chapter
MP3 | CD | Vinyl
Roadrunner Records
Release Date: October 21, 2014

These past six years have been a rocky ride for both Slipknot and their fans. When the band released their last record, All Hope Is Gone, in 2008, it was met with mixed reactions. Many of the band’s long-time fans felt the album ventured a bit too far into Stone Sour territory — That’s the other band that singer Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root were in: a band that specializes in more lighter, radio-friendly, hard rock fare. Many of the tracks from All Hope Is Gone would not sound out of place on a Stone Sour record. On the other hand, the album was a huge success and garnered Slipknot hordes of new fans and saw them continuing to be a massive concert draw throughout the album’s tour cycle.

Then, on May 24 2010, the band’s bassist and founding member Paul Gray was found dead in an Iowa hotel room from an accidental morphine overdose. Gray was a major songwriting contributor and, as Corey Taylor puts it, “the heart of Slipknot.” His death left the band reeling for a time and fans in fear for the future. For the remaining shows of the tour, Gray’s bass appeared on stage under a spotlight with a session player filling in his parts from behind the curtain. For the next couple of years, the band’s members would pour their energies into other projects, such as Taylor and Root’s Stone Sour and drummer Joey Jordison’s bands Murderdolls and Scar The Martyr. Fans were left wondering when and if new Slipknot material would ever materialize.

These fears were only exacerbated by the sudden and still not fully explained dismissal of Jordison in December of 2013. The drummer was also a founding member and principal songwriter. The story just kept getting more grim when Root announced that he had been fired from Stone Sour for not wanting to continue the already long-running tour cycle for that band’s excellent pair of concept albums, The House of Gold and Bones Part 1 and Part 2, in favor of working on the new Slipknot record. How this would affect his ongoing working relationship with Taylor in Slipknot remained a major wild card.

So, here we are, at the moment many feared might never come. Today, after months of hype, teasers and advance singles and videos, Slipknot releases their long-awaited fifth album .5: The Gray Chapter. Was it worth the wait? Does it live up to the hype? In short, yes… and then some!

.5: The Gray Chapter is a record dripping with sorrow and rage by a band determined to not go quietly into that good night. The album’s title is a obvious homage to the late bassist and it kicks off with the dirge-like track “XIX,” which is supposedly about the experience and emotions of being pallbearers at the funeral. The first words that we hear uttered are the declaration:

This song is not for the living
This song is for the dead

The second track, “Sarcastrophe,” is where the band really seems to start working out their rage issues. It is perhaps the most pummeling song in the band’s entire catalog and harkens back to the aesthetics of the album that many consider to be their heaviest, 2001’s Iowa. The lyrics to this song and many others on the album will have internet conspiracy theorists debating endlessly as to whether or not they are about Jordison or the tensions between Root and Taylor.

“AOV” is an acronym for “Approaching Original Violence.” This is another nod, as the title would indicate, to the band’s classic sound from the first two albums. The verses surge while Corey Taylor flirts with rap-rock territory, delivering the song’s vitriolic lyrics through gnashed teeth. The chorus counters with a giant hook that will be stuck in your head for days.

Up next is the album’s first official single, “The Devil In I.” The song delivers another massive hook and some impeccably furious blast beats from the band’s new drummer (rumored to be Jay Weinberg, son of legendary E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg. The band is refusing to confirm the identities of their new bassist and drummer, going so far as to make both of them wear the same generic mask).

“Killpop” is a sinister and twisted take on a love song and provides a brief respite from the onslaught of heavy. If I was a betting man, I’d put money on this as a future single.

The eye of the storm passes quickly and the band blasts back with “Skeptic.” This is a song that is very obviously about the loss of Paul Gray with Taylor delivering the eulogy:

The world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you
The world will never know another man as amazing as you

“Lech” quickly establishes itself as the angriest song on the record when Taylor screams the opening acapella salvo:

I know why Judas wept, motherfuckers!

Fittingly, at the very heart of this album is the song “Goodbye.” It’s clearly a manifesto for a group of guys who are ready to move past the tragedy and strife and get on with picking up the pieces:

A long time ago we discovered, that nothing could stop us
This hasn’t torn us apart, so nothing ever will
How can we know where we are if the sun is behind us
But this moment will show us the rest of our lives

If it’s classic abrasive and percussive Slipknot a la the debut record that you’re looking for, then “Nomadic” is right up your alley. This is probably the least accessible song for the uninitiated.

“The One That Kills the Least” is the track here that would have been most likely to fit in on All Hope Is Gone. It’s infectiously melodic while still managing to be super heavy underneath the sheen.

For all those purists who have been bitching about the band deviating from the formula that first brought them success with the 1999 self-titled debut album, there is “Custer.” An excellent dose of anger that would have been right at home on that album.

“Be Prepared for Hell” is a weird, almost psychedelic, short tone-poem that provides a creepy interlude into the next track, the unofficial first single “The Negative One.” This is a song that many have been speculating may be directed at Jordison (Taylor denies this). Musically, it’s reminiscent of some of the tracks from the 2003 release Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses.

The album closes with the beautiful and epic “If Rain Is What You Want.” The song builds in a slow burn from quiet origins to a monstrously heavy riff before the refrain echoes away, ending this wild ride.

All in all, this is exactly the record that Slipknot had promised us and, moreover, it’s exactly the record that they needed to make. It’s not likely to win over the haters, but I doubt that the band was giving much effort in that direction anyway. If you have ever been even a casual fan of Slipknot, you need to give this record a listen. It takes all the best elements of the band and plays to them strongly while discarding anything resembling filler.

Rating 9.0 out of 10

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